While having young legs is a great thing in a league as grueling as the NBA, it undoubtedly comes with its share of problems.
Young teams often do not know how to close out games or keep a contest close when their opponents threaten to pull away. They do not always play tight defense for 48 minutes or execute well in the half-court, either.
With James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik blazing the trail, these Rockets have exceeded many people’s expectations, but to take the next step they should look to bring in a veteran presence who could make a positive impact both on the court and in the locker room.
If Houston seriously wants to make a postseason push, here are seven veteran players this team should look to add to mask their immaturity.
If the Houston Rockets choose not to pursue the trade route, they can still add a veteran presence off the bench through free agency by snagging former first-overall pick Kenyon Martin.
Despite playing well off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011-12, Martin still remains without a team for the 2012-13 campaign.
In 42 games off the bench backing up Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, he averaged a respectable 5.2 points and 4.3 boards on 44.1 percent shooting, plus a block and a steal per game.
Patrick Patterson has played extremely well in his first season as a starter and the team has depth at the 4 in Marcus Morris and Terrence Jones, but the Houston’s decision to amnesty Luis Scola left them with an incredibly young, inexperienced frontcourt.
Martin would likely come for the veteran’s minimum or possibly a little more, and he would provide more grit, rebounding and interior toughness to this team.
He has decent hands and can hit mid-range jump shots well enough to draw opposing big men outside the paint.
Given his age and injury history, Martin would hardly be a marquee signing, but if this team is serious about making a postseason push, they could use some more experience and physicality, two things K-Mart can still provide in spades.
The playmaking skills of Jeremy Lin and James Harden have been quite impressive thus far, but the team is seriously lacking in backcourt depth.
One option would be to throw an offer at Golden State for journeyman point guard Jarrett Jack.
In his first season with the Warriors, Jack has averaged 8.4 points, 2.9 boards and 4.4 assists per game, while shooting 43.7percent in 24.6 minutes per game off the pine.
At 6’3”, Jack is a strong, physical guard who is capable of logging time at both the 1- and 2-guard spots, thanks to his driving and shooting abilities.
Jack could spell both Harden and Lin, giving them a more reliable option than Toney Douglas or Daequan Cook.
Although not an elite facilitator, Jack can see the floor well and make the proper pass without forcing the issue. He is good at navigating the court and can find his way to the rim as well.
Jack is due $5.4 million for 2012-13, but his contract expires at the end of the year. He may not stay in Houston long, but Jack could be a nice stopgap off the bench for the stretch run and keep Lin and Harden from having to play superhuman minutes all season long.
Pau Gasol nearly became a Houston Rocket in the 2011 offseason as a part of the Chris Paul deal, and while the team is not looking to trade Gasol currently, according to CBS Sports’ Matt Moore, the Spanish veteran has not exactly thrived in the 2012-13 season.
Gasol has averaged a respectable but far from stellar 13.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game on disappointing 42.3 percent shooting.
He has looked uncomfortable in L.A.’s offense both under Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, and there is speculation that the team could look to deal him for younger pieces in order to build a run-and-gun identity around Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
If the team does decide to part ways with Gasol before the trade deadline, Houston could once again look to acquire the big man if they are willing to give up some young pieces like Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris.
The Rockets would absorb a significant chunk of salary, but they also vault immediately into playoff contention with the addition of Gasol to their Asik-Lin-Harden core.
Gasol’s skill set would allow him to play on the perimeter and give Asik room in the paint offensively, and he could slide over and play center when Asik was on the bench, thanks to his low-post polish.
It may cost them some of their future upside, but the addition of Gasol would give the Rockets an All-Star-caliber frontcourt piece to plug into their inexperienced frontcourt and give their rebuilding project a serious boost.
Through 15 games, he has averaged 11.1 points on 49.6 percent shooting from the field, but just 1.7 boards and 1.8 assists per game. Terry has been starting for the Celtics, but will likely be reduced to a bench timeshare with Courtney Lee once Avery Bradley returns from shoulder surgery.
Terry is a versatile combo guard capable of working with the ball in his hands or moving without it. He can hit the three with regularity and is always a threat to catch fire and light up a scoreboard.
Like Jarrett Jack, Terry would be able to spell Harden and Lin as needed and has proven that he can thrive playing in a reserve role and anchoring the second unit.
Though he has lost some of his quickness with age, Terry can still push the pace and would fit with this Houston team’s uptempo offensive system.
Terry is due $15 million through 2015, and while that will be a little steep for a 37-year-old scorer, Houston would still be netting a cagey veteran who could serve as a mentor for the Rockets young, still developing backcourt.
Young team’s can often have trouble generating offense, and having a player like Terry to bail them out at times would be hugely beneficial. It may cost one of their athletic big men, but snagging Jason Terry would be a nice, low-risk move for Houston.
The Milwaukee Bucks bolstered their frontcourt in the 2012 offseason, re-signing Ersan Ilyasova and drafting North Carolina big man John Henson, leaving the team with a very deep forward and center rotation.
To this point, the victim of that depth has been veteran Drew Gooden, who is reportedly healthy but has yet to log a single minute on the floor for Milwaukee.
In 2011-12 Gooden played 56 games and notched 13.7 points, 6.5 boards and 2.6 assists, but for some reason he has fallen out of Scott Skiles’ rotation completely.
Conditioning and defensive effort have been two issues for Gooden during his NBA career, but there is no denying that he is a skilled offensive big man and a capable rebounder in his own right.
Gooden is actually one of the better playmaking frontcourt players in the entire league, as he proved by notching a 13-assist triple-double last season.
Because he has been inactive for the brunt of the season the Bucks would likely be willing to part with Gooden for relatively little in return, and while Houston would have to absorb $13 million of salary through 2015, they would be getting a proven big man who can succeed at forward or center.
Gooden could help Asik develop the more finesse aspects of his game, while also logging time both alongside him and in relief.
It may not be a high-profile move, but bringing in Gooden to provide some experience in the frontcourt for cheap would be a solid move by the Rockets’ front office.
Every young team in this league could use a little more Andre Miller in their lives.
The 14-year veteran is in the second year of his second stint with the Denver Nuggets and is still producing at a high level, despite being 36 years old.
Backing up Ty Lawson, Miller is averaging a solid 8.7 points, 2.9 boards and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field.
Although he is not a dynamic athlete, Miller would give Houston’s half-court offense a new dimension, thanks to his phenomenal court vision and strong post-up game for a guard.
Miller has shown that he is comfortable working without the ball playing alongside Lawson, meaning he would fit seamlessly into the Houston backcourt and would serve as a phenomenal mentor for Harden and Lin, improving their abilities to read defenses and find open teammates.
Miller is due $9.6 million over the next two seasons, and while this may seem like a hefty sum to pay to a reserve player, his presence would be incredibly beneficial to this young Rockets squad both on and off the court.
He is truly a coach while he is out on the floor, and his ability to play within himself and show great poise and patience would help this Rockets team down the stretch.
Tayshaun Prince has spent his entire career with the Detroit Pistons, but with the team fully in rebuilding mode, he simply no longer fits the program.
However, one place that would greatly appreciate his championship experience and stingy defense is Houston.
Prince is averaging 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 dimes per game while shooting 45.9 percent for the 2012-13 season, but Detroit has Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko at small forward, both of whom deserve minutes to prove themselves, as well as Greg Monroe locking down power forward for the foreseeable future.
Should the Rockets be able to get him out of the Motor City, he would provide great depth in the frontcourt behind Patterson and Chandler Parsons, while also being Houston’s top perimeter defender and guarding opposing teams’ best wing scorer.
These Rockets are 29th in points allowed, giving up an average of 101.5 per game, and could use someone who is a defensive specialist but also capable of chipping in in the scoring department and on the glass.
Prince has championship experience with the Pistons, but has also played the leader role on a young team during his tenure in Detroit.
He would be able to slide comfortably into that position were he to find himself donning Rockets red.
At age 32 it is difficult to tell just how much he has left in the tank, but the addition of Tayshaun Prince would give Houston a dependable veteran who prides himself on his defense and could fit seamlessly into the Rockets’ frontcourt rotation.